Parenting Vivian | 05 Apr 2011 07:00 am

Troubled Teen Placement Options

In the last 10 years, boarding schools for troubled teens have become much more accepted than in the decades prior. In the 60′s and 70′s when a youth was defiant or out of control, he was usually forced into the military, or sent to reform school. In the 90′s the troubled teen industry has flourished and so have the problems associated with the rapid growth of any field.

There are many types of programs for defiant youth. There are Military Schools, Behavior Modification Schools, Residential Treatment Centers, Boot Camps, Wilderness Camps, and Specialty Boarding Schools just to name a few. Each program is designed to help parents with their out of control teens.

I will discuss the differences as I see them:

Military Schools are designed mainly for young men and women looking for a career in the military. Cadets have a lot of freedom to move about during the week and usually have weekends free to relax, study, and are generally able to leave the campus. This is usually not a good placement option for a defiant teen. Most Military Schools collect tuition for the year in advance and offer no refund if the student is expelled.

Behavior Modification Schools range in beliefs and techniques and typically are much more structured than a Military School. Most operate using behavior modification strategies of rewards and consequences. Some schools advertise that they have a Positive Peer Culture but in reality they are a Behavior Modification School using peer pressure.

Residential Treatment Centers are more of a clinical setting and licensing usually requires them to have a Dr. or Nurse on site. These types of programs are effective if a child has psychological issues, suicidal tendencies, or other major types of psychiatric disorders. RTC’s will also typically offer therapy and counseling as part of their program. RTC’s are sometimes covered by insurance which can be a real advantage to a parent with limited funds.

Boot Camps are basically what the term sounds like. Boot Camps were popular mostly in state run correctional facilities until the last few years. Private Boot Camps are still available in some states. Both state run and private options have had their share of problems, including deaths in both types of camps. Many states have dropped this option and returned to simply locking youth up. Boot Camps are an ‘in your face” option, but care great should be exercised when choosing this option. It is always good to visit any program being considered. Parents should also check with the state it is licensed in to see if they have had any problems, or abuse.

Wilderness Camps are named as such because they take place in the wilderness rather than a facility. Students are forced to hike during the day and sleep on the ground at night. The program is designed to help spoiled teens learn to appreciate all of the things they take for granted. Running water, hot water, heat (other than from a camp fire), and a soft bed to sleep in are just a few of the things they learn to appreciate. There have been deaths in these types of programs as well. With the unpredictability of the elements, this type of program can be especially dangerous. There are some reputable Wilderness Programs that have been around for years that are successful.

Specialty Boarding Schools are similar to Behavior Modification Schools, and could probably be subcategorized under them. The main difference would probably be the techniques they are using. As mentioned before the Behavior Modification Schools use behavior modification. Specialty Boarding Schools use other methods including Positive Peer Cultures, Cognitive Thinking, Animal Therapy, and may even include a little Behavior Modification.

Choosing a placement option for a teen is a very difficult task. Great care and research should be completed prior to placing your child in anyone else’s care. I recommend that a parent always visit the placement option they are considering.

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